An inspirational story – Ironman 2020

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2020 is proving to be a distinguished milestone for all ages. Many hobbies were converted as a profession as jobs suddenly had turned scarce. For some, this was a phase of boredom, frustration and also spending hours on social media but for Kedar Deshmukh this was a life-changing event. He is none other than Ironman Kona vr 27 finisher Kedar Deshmukh. He solemnly believes that Opportunities are seen in the eye of the be holder!

“When the student is ready, a teacher appears.” Kedar had participated in an College event called Ironman at a friends’ college, he is an avid footballer, sports and fitness is always in his stride. But IRONMAN World championship, that too a virtual event needed a guide, a mentor with equal focus and someone who was ready to run that extra mile. Kedar found his guiding light in Rakhi Salian. 

Rakhi Salian’s profile : 

She is  Certified group fitness instructor from AFAA ATHLETIC AND FITNESS ASSOCIATION OF AMERICA




For this duo, the passion, commitment and focus was going to change their entire life. They worked hard in silence, toiled for days, executed the plan with finesse and sincerity. The results were evident when the 20 year old Kedar Deshmukh was ranked 5thin India and 64thinternationallyand 1stamong his age group in one of the toughest triathlon- The IRONMAN among 4000 participants. The current pandemic scene centred around run-bike-run as swimming was not feasible due to restrictions. 

The traditional Ironman Triathlon spans over seven months of rigorous training. These are a set of distance triathlon races organized by the World Triathlon Corporation (WTC), consisting of a 2.4-mile (3.86 km) swim, a 112-mile (180.25 km) bicycle ride and a marathon 26.22-mile (42.20 km) run, raced in that order. It is widely considered one of the most difficult one-day sporting events in the world. 

Most Ironman events have a limited time of 16 or 17 hours to complete the race, course dependent. Any participant who manages to complete the triathlon within these time constraints is designated an Ironman.

The name “Ironman Triathlon” is also associated with the original Ironman triathlon which is now the Ironman World Championship. Held in Kailua-Kona, the world championship has been held annually in Hawaii since 1978 (with an additional race in 1982). Originally taking place in Oahu, the race moved to Kailua-Kona in 1981, where it continues today. The Ironman World Championship has become known for its gruelling length, harsh race conditions, and television coverage.  

In India IRONMAN is conducted in Goa for a distance of 70.3miles

Every week there were challenges based on critical elements of Speed, Strength, Knowledge, Endurance, and Preparation. Then it was time to apply them to 140.6 mile IRONMAN VR27 Kona race. 
IRONMAN VR27 Kona was the official IRONMAN VR race of the 2020 IRONMAN VR World Championship Celebration.  

IRONMAN Kona race within the official IRONMAN 17 hours in a more regulated competitive environment, you could choose from swim-bike-run 17-hour Challenger Division or the run-bike-run 17-Hour Challenger Division.

The thrill initiated the moment Kedar and Rakhi registered for the virtual race. Rakhi had her plate full as she mentored Kedar for the rigorous practice, regime, fitness program and diet. Kedar was exemplary throughout the training and never did he binge or diet or exercise. Rakhi mentions, “I have never had  a student with so much focus and this prompted me to add more panache in the program. We worked out a pencil and paper framework to include, diet, training, rest, learning technology and also academics. Working out everything was a challenge but this is a symbiotic relationship between the athlete and coach which is ever-growing”.

This story has all the elements of hiccups, fun, nail biting finishes, technical glitches and hyper focus. So, it truly began after a basic discussion on mutual goals, finishing line as they registered online on insta just a day before the event. There was no investment on a Garmin watch or a cycle but the duo went on with the plan. His faith relied on self, Rakhi and a Polar watch. Though virtual, this event took a toll on time and technology was exasperating. Internet connectivity while monitoring or recording the event was sparse and several times Rakhi had her heart in her mouth as she drove relentlessly on a faithful Activa while Kedar led the runs on Mumbai roads. 

Kedar had a polar watch  and began the first run Kona knowledge block from 18thto 20thSeptember. This consisted of a run-bike-run troika – 20 min run 40 min bike and then a 30 min run. 

Day 1

The troika set was completed but glitches began effacing as this event was not registered in the Ironman virtual club site but showed in the Polar app. Keeping the cool, they headed home, figured out with a  factory resetting and tried the run-bike-run all over again at 10 pm at night. They murmured a silent prayer as the event was NOW registered on the Ironman website. With so much of vigour and rigour, it looked as though Kedar’s body was letting out steam and thus Kedar is nicknamed as the ‘steam machine’.

Day 2 

The next morning also brought with it new inclusions of the Murphy’s law and there were huge hurdles all the way. Kedar began cycling at 4 am, with a silently encouraging Rakhi yielding the Activa behind him and some dogs too joined the ordeal. Kedar cycled from Thakur Village Kandivali to Andheri and retraced it back. After 27 minutes, the watch vibrated signalling something was not right. 

They took a mini break, sipped water to restore their cool and rode again for 40 minutes only to realize that the Polar watch did not have the GPS facility. Thus it was not getting registered. They tried it again in the evening and encountered the same problem. They did not lose hope, kept the focus and learnt a few tricks on you tube and used a manual registration  on Polar app. Finally, the app relented and this event was registered. 

Day 3

There was more on the third day to endure. This was the last run but there were more lessons to be learnt. The run was for a total of 30 minutes and as Kedar sincerely put in the last 5 minutes, the watch slipped off his wrist due to excessive sweating. Sadly, the event did not register! Kedar and Rakhi picked their spirits one more time, determined ignoring the past – which was just 5 minutes ago. 

In Kedars case it was the faith in self and dedication of a mentor who was willing to do it all over again. There were sacrifices on family time, sleep and a tryst with destiny for finding their way in the dark tunnel. But, both knew that much will need to be changed and this is time to seek for help. 

Sometimes help is next doors and one has to knock to find the opportunity. It is the initiative one takes. Rakhi’s neighbour Sherwin Noronha was a biker with so much knowledge about bikes, marathons and he had also kept himself abreast of the virtual Ironman event. It was enriching for both Kedar and Rakhi to hear his blissful talk. He even directed them to Dherin Bontra – owner of Bike Shark. Dherin was the spark in the tunnel and he loaned them his bike along with a Garmin watch. The present situation  was now formidable for Kedar.

The next event was the endurance block 25thSeptember to 27thSeptember = 1.2km run 56km bike n 13.8 km run. Kedar says, “Then  I ran with a new song in my heart for  1.2km and then cycled 56km on the indoor trainer and that was connected to the Rovy app which was directly linked to the ironman virtual club site”.

The route was set by the  Ironman club had set so it was registered and then the final run of 13.8km but as  the watch was wrongly set on the duathlon mode, this did not get registered.  

Rakhi says, “ Never was there anguish or frown on Kedar’s face. It was his constant line – Lets move it!” For me as a coach, Training and recovery had to be done simultaneously. The final event was just a week away so I did not want him to run and cause any stress.”

The next weekend was the preparation block 2ndOctober to 4thOctober which was 1km 25km 6km and there were more technical challenges ahead. We again contacted Sherwin who  advised us to create a multi sport option on the watch and it would register. This too failed so again the Polar watch came to rescue and they re-did the 6 km run all over again. It was relief that it did register. 

There were two more angels helping us when Rakhi decided to seek help from Noreena Periera a good friend and she in turn talked to Dr Hemali Metha – sports physiotherapist. After talking to a few contacts, a Garmin watch was arranged from a distributor Manish.


Kedar says, “It was time for the final race. IRONMAN kona vr 27 17hrs run bike run from the 9thto the 11thOctober. We decided to do it on the 9thOctober after evaluating which watch to use and ended up using the Polar watch for the first run which we started at 10am. After the run we reached Bike Shark – Kandivali, where the indoor trainer was set up and I just started cycling. “

Rakhi says, “ I told him to stop but he was just zooming away. The app was down as there was no wifi and the mobile network was weak. So it wasn’t getting registered. I asked Kedar’s sister to check and made many frantic calls. By then, he had finished cycling 43kms. I conjured up all my mental strength and calmly instructed Kedar to stop as this was a sequential event of Run-Bike- Run and there was no merit if the first run was not being registered.”

But Kedar was speeding against time too and it was already 12.30 pm. Loading Dherin’s Garmin, he started running for 4 kms but glitches galore and this time the Garmin site was not registering. Now he had finished 11 kms already. They took a break and Rakhi requested Dherin if they could borrow the bike. Dherin pleasantly agreed. The bike then was set up at Rakhis place with the indoor trainer. Lunch and a general banter brought in  a new mood. The camaraderie between Rakhi and Kedar was fabulous. Kedar is known to crack up with perfect comic timing. This set the tempo but Rakhi now volunteered to run for 1 km. The little pauses in her run were met with strong vibrations on the watch. They again switched to the Polar watch and Kedar ran for 4 kilometres till their building gate. The app showed that it was registered at 33 percent. This buoyed their spirits and then Kedar began cycling. 

It was a huge challenge for Kedar to run 180 kilometers as it was all about timing now. At 8 kilometres, they saw that the upload was at 33 percent completion. Ironman team was live on Facebook and they mentioned that the Polar app was not syncing with their site. Rakhi says, “Our hopes were crumbling. Kedar stopped cycling and pondered if it was the right decision to give up. Rakhi’s eyes welled up but they both brewed up a new energy and enthusiasm to fight against the odds. They were contemplating of registering it on the Polar app and send the required proof to the Ironman team. It was certainly disheartening and the virtual glitches from their end too seemed unfair. 

So, more angels were flying to meet us. Kedar’s Aunt Shilpa Zingade and uncle Anurag Zingade and cousin Samarth Zingade. had an Apple watch and apple phone. Their arrival was not pre-planned but their blessings were. The Universe conspires if the heart sincerely desires. This adage came into being. 

They now  created a new account on Ironman virtual app, Rouvy app and did an Apple id. Now was the time to try it and so  Rakhi did a 1 kilometre trial run. It went on smoothly and also showed on the site.  

Now it was time to just go for it so they started at 1am on 11thOctober 2020. The watch had a challenging technology and each time it showed a different milestone. They decided to stop at 4 kms and check the registration. Darkness, dogs, angels, Kedar and the steadfast Rakhi on her tireless Activa witnessed Kedar completing the 4 km run. It was 2.20 am, as he mounted on the indoor home setting of the   bike and took on the next set. He completed cycling in 7 hrs and 38 minutes. With two feathers lightly touching in his cap, he enjoyed a breakfast and a protein shake and then began the last leg of 42.2 kilometres in the humid roads of Mumbai at 1.11 pm. 

Rakhi says, “ He ran without uttering a word. His lips were sealed, I knew he could go longer like this but he was getting drained. So had to force him to stop after 17kms and gave him hydration. I was on the bike all along, and by his side as much as possible keeping traffic rules in mind. We completed it at around 5pm and his family joined us for the last 8kms run. After he completed it everyone was celebrating but my heart was pounding as on my phone it didn’t get uploaded. We waited for some time, clicking pics and having sweets, then I asked Kedar to check on his phone. And finally it showed -100% completed. 

Silent tears, smiles, celebrations followed. We said our heartfelt thank you’s to all he angels who helped and the strength we derived from people known and unknown. To Kedar and Rakhi the green bar of registration looked like a gold medal. Kedar says, “My coach, my guiding light had been my strength all throughout. She had helped me better myself and supported and motivated me in this entire journey.”

Rakhi says, “ As a teacher/ coach very seldom does one get a student who is so dedicated and passionate. I am a bit crazy when it comes to my work and very passionate and now I have found a student who could give me 100% back”. 

Kedar’s mom, Yashwanti Deshmukh says, “ Kedar was always a focused child . He always completed difficult tasks with great determination. He has this BORN TO WIN  attitude right from childhood. He has a dream that India, our  country must be proud of him. As a mother, I am in awe of him and will continue to support to help him realize all his dreams. Rakhi Salian madam has taken great efforts to sharpen his personality . We grateful to  her for her sacred selfless attitude.” 

So, looking forward to more events and certainly winning!

Now our eyes are set on going to a destination where ironman is conducted and winning it. Hopefully we get some sponsors for the same.

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